What is the Low-Line?
The Low-Line re-envisions the half-mile space beneath the CTA ‘L’ tracks between Southport and Lincoln avenues as an exciting Chicago art destination and a fun and dynamic path connecting Lakeview. Learn more about the project and view proposed designs for new Low-Line plazas here.
Who is behind the Low-Line project?
The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Special Service Area (SSA) 27, and Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, are partnering on different aspects of the project, with the assistance and support of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Transit Authority. The Low-Line project was first envisioned by the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce in its 2011 Lakeview Area Master Plan, which gathered input from local residents, businesses, and other stakeholders. The Chamber is the sole service provider for Special Service Area (SSA) 27. The SSA has partnered with PORT, a leading-edge design consultancy, to identify potential uses for new Low-Line plazas at Ashland and Paulina, and has already funded some initial improvements at Southport.
Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit partner organization, is exploring different approaches to accomplishing the ultimate long-term Low-Line vision: creating a continuous connection from Southport to Lincoln Avenue. Its efforts are focused on the Low-Line pathways along non-commercial blocks between the future Paulina and Ashland plazas on the west, and the Ashland and Southport plazas on the east.
To help ensure the project is properly and safely implemented with no major impacts to rail service, the Chicago Transit Authority has agreed to assist with the construction of portions of the project, including site prep and installation, further emphasizing the important role the CTA plays as the focal point of communities throughout the city.
Where can I find the Low-Line?
The project site is located in Lakeview, a neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. The site consists of a series of spaces—many of which are currently underutilized—beneath the CTA Brown Line ‘L’ tracks between the Southport and Paulina stations. Some improvements have already been made at the Southport CTA station, and additional enhancements are currently underway to connect Ashland and Paulina with a new pathway and plazas.
The project was first introduced in the 2011 Lakeview Area Master Plan as a means of connecting the neighborhood’s business districts on Southport Ave. and Lincoln Ave. while beautifying our neighborhood. Lakeview residents and business owners expressed the need for more green space in the neighborhood and identified the area beneath the ‘L’ tracks as an opportunity for future enhancements and programming. As a unique attraction, the Low-Line has the potential to become a landmark attracting attention to Lakeview and Chicago while encouraging both visitors and residents to explore Lakeview’s local business districts on Southport and Lincoln avenues.
What is the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce doing to gather community input?
The Low-Line idea emerged from the Lakeview Area Master Plan (LAMP) in 2011, which incorporated feedback from thousands of community members gathered in surveys, open houses, a youth summit, and other creative activities. Those efforts led to LAMP receiving a Community Outreach Award from the American Planning Association - Illinois Chapter in 2011. In addition to the Low-Line survey on our project webpage, we hosted two community meetings where participants shared their ideas for the project and reviewed design options for Phase 1 plazas at Ashland and Paulina, and will hold another community meeting in early summer 2018 to discuss the Phase 2 pathway connecting Ashland and Paulina.
If you want to get more involved or want to learn about future meetings, make sure you sign up for our email list.
I think the Low-Line plans should include ___________________.
We’d love to hear your ideas for the Low-Line project. Share your feedback on the proposed designs for new Low-Line plazas at Paulina and Ashland here, and stay tuned for more information about the ultimate long-term Low-Line vision: a continuous connection from Southport to Lincoln Avenue.
Why would anyone want to walk underneath the ‘L’ tracks? It’s really noisy and dirty.
We get it—the idea of spending time beneath a noisy CTA train seems a little unusual. But some of Chicago’s boldest ideas and most beloved public spaces were also met with some initial skepticism when they were first imagined. The Lakeview community originally envisioned the idea for the Low-Line in the 2011 Lakeview Area Master Plan, and we’ve heard from countless locals and visitors since who are excited about taking a stroll along the path once it’s complete. In the five years since the Low-Line Market launched at the Southport CTA station, more than 20,000 people have attended the market, proving the potential for further development of the Low-Line concept.
The first objective of any design is improving the Low-Line spaces so that they are inviting. Considering that many of the spaces aren’t regularly cleaned or maintained right now, we think there is a huge opportunity to improve upon the existing conditions. You can view some current images of the spaces and compare them to the proposed designs on our project webpage. As for noise abatement, there are some limits to what can be accomplished within the current scope of the project, but the design team from PORT has drawn some inspiration from other cities and is incorporating materials into the design that could help soften the sound.
What about safety? Will security features be included in the Low-Line designs?
Currently, many of the spaces beneath the ‘L’ tracks don’t feel very safe, and we want to change that. By activating underutilized portions of the future Low-Line path with activities and amenities that invite positive behavior, we think the Low-Line will be safe and welcoming for everyone. The design team from PORT has incorporated enhanced and additional lighting into the design concepts for the Low-Line plazas that will help improve the overall safety of the spaces.
Will the under-L parking spaces be affected? How about traffic?
Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit partner organization, will work with individual properties who rely on access to the area beneath the ‘L’ tracks to discuss potential parking impacts. We do not anticipate any increase in vehicular traffic to adjacent streets as a result of the Low-Line project.
Who owns the Low-Line spaces beneath the CTA 'L' tracks?
The spaces beneath the 'L' tracks are owned by the Chicago Transit Authority. In some places along the Low-Line, adjacent homes and businesses have adopted this land, planting gardens and making other improvements to beautify the CTA-owned property.
Who is paying for the project, and how much will it cost?
Special Service Area (SSA) 27 is funding targeted improvements for Phase 1 Low-Line plazas at Southport, Ashland and Paulina. SSAs are a funding mechanism to raise money for services to a designated mixed-use area through a property tax levy on properties within the SSA’s boundaries, in order to supplement City services. The SSA's projected costs for constructing Phase 1 of the Low-Line are projected to be approximately $300,000.
Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit partner organization, will plan for and seek to raise funding for Phases 2 and 3 of the Low-Line, including pathways along non-commercial blocks between the future Paulina and Ashland plazas on the west, and the Ashland and Southport plazas on the east. Plans for this portion of the Low-Line project are still in the early stages, so a project budget has not been defined and potential funding sources have not been identified. Donations made to Friends of Lakeview by individuals and corporations are tax deductible. Sign up for our email list to learn about opportunities to support the project and volunteer.
Who will maintain the Low-Line spaces once they are open?
The Low-Line plazas at Southport, Ashland and Paulina will be maintained by Special Service Area (SSA) 27’s Clean Team, which is also responsible for sweeping sidewalks and emptying litter receptacles throughout the service area. Since 2016, the Clean Team has maintained the plaza on the west side of Southport, including the seating arrangement next to the Gap. Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit partner organization, will be responsible for maintaining the Low-Line pathway between the future Paulina and Ashland plazas on the west, and the Ashland and Southport plazas on the east.
What is the timeline for completing the Low-Line project?
Special Service Area (SSA) 27 and Friends of Lakeview, a 501(c)(3) non-profit partner organization, have already made improvements along the Low-Line, beginning with the launch of the Low-Line Market at the Southport CTA station in 2013. In 2016, SSA 27 began Phase 1 of Low-Line construction, installing a permanent public plaza at the Southport CTA station, complete with a brick and pea gravel hardscape, planter boxes, public seating and flexible space for future programming and micro-retail. In 2017, crews completed the Southport Plaza with the installation of four mural walls that play host to rotating public art exhibits year-round.
With funding from SSA 27, work on Phase 1 will continue in 2018 and includes completion of the Paulina Plaza and preparation of the Ashland Plaza sites. The expectation is that these new plaza spaces at Ashland and Paulina will be connected in the fall of 2018 as part of Phase 2, funded by Friends of Lakeview. Some additional work will be needed to complete Phases 1 and 2 in 2019. A public meeting will be held in early summer 2018 to solicit input on Phase 2 plans and to outline next steps. There is not yet a timeline or design for Phase 3 of the Low-Line, which would link Ashland to Southport, completing the project.
I want to help out.
Great! We’re looking for supporters and volunteers to help make the Low-Line vision a reality. Sign a letter of support here to help us move the project forward, and share your email address to learn about opportunities to get involved.